[Pnews] Freed Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera on U.S. Colonialism After Hurricane Maria
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Oct 19 12:41:38 EDT 2017
Freed Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera on U.S.
Colonialism After Hurricane Maria
October 18, 2017
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
*JUAN GONZÁLEZ:* We continue our coverage of Puerto Rico, one month
after Hurricane Maria, as we turn to longtime Puerto Rican independence
activist Oscar López Rivera, speaking last week in Puerto Rico. Until
earlier this year, he had been in federal prison for 35 years—much of
the time in solitary confinement—after he was convicted on federal
charges of opposing U.S. authority over the island by force. President
Obama commuted his sentence in January, and he was finally released in May.
*AMY GOODMAN:* This is Oscar López Rivera in the neighborhood of Las
Monjas in San Juan. He was busy visiting with community members affected
by Hurricane Maria. He spoke with reporter Nicole Salazar while riding
in the back of a van.
*OSCAR LÓPEZ RIVERA:* The overwhelming majority of Puerto Rico is
completely, completely alienated from the political structure.
Colonialism is really, really strong and alive in Puerto Rico. And
the politicians have taken full advantage of that. We have a debt of
$74 billion, caused primarily by the system and the political
structure that exists in Puerto Rico.
So, for me, it has been very—a very devastating experience,
primarily because one of the first things that I noticed was
gentrification. We can anticipate that a lot of communities,
including this one here, will be displaced once it is beautified,
embellished, in the end, and probably gentrified. And this is very
close to the ocean. It’s a community with a lot of potential. And
once they can wipe out the residents, then they can do whatever they
feel like doing here. But we can see it in Ponce de León with
Ciudadela, where we can see the buildings, where we can see the
condominiums, we can see by Ocean Park, we can see every part of
Puerto Rico. Every part of Puerto Rico along the ocean, we can see
gentrification taking place. And Vieques and Culebra are probably
the biggest targets right now.
So, gentrification means the displacement of Puerto Rico, the
displacement of the working class in Puerto Rico, and, at the same
time, foreigners coming into Puerto Rico, especially because the
foreigners who invest in Puerto Rico are having access to incentives
that we don’t have access to. So if I buy a house tomorrow, I will
have to pay taxes on my house. But if a multimillionaire buys a
condominium for $1.5 million or $2 million, he will not have to pay
any taxes for 25 or 30 years. So, that’s the difference in terms of
advantages and disadvantages. And that’s the Puerto Rico that I have
found, a Puerto Rico with a very, very high unemployment rate and a
Puerto Rico that seems to be in a desperate state, especially after
*NICOLE SALAZAR:* In a moment of crisis like this, a lot of times
you see the financial sector moving in, people taking advantage.
What are your sort of main concerns right now, given the sort of
desperate situation Puerto Rico is in?
*OSCAR LÓPEZ RIVERA:* Well, the financial institutions are going to
move in. You know, they will invest. They will buy out, because the
property is real cheap right now. A lot of Puerto Ricans are moving
out. I am surprised at the number of Puerto Ricans that are moving
out of Puerto Rico still. I thought that, by now, the immigration of
Puerto Ricans had decreased a little bit. But, no, with a hurricane,
it has increased even more. So, I see the financial institutions,
especially the hedge funds, moving into Puerto Rico with all
the—with all the force, knowing that their investments towards the
future are going to be multiplied or probably elevated to quantities
beyond any notion of how capital works.
*NICOLE SALAZAR:* Can you respond to Donald Trump and the U.S. sort
of response to the island, the political response?
*OSCAR LÓPEZ RIVERA:* I think that it’s reflective of the colonizer
and how the colonizer treats the colonized. He has no sense of
respect for Puerto Rico. He has demonstrated it clearly already by
doing what he’s done. It is shameful for me to see a president
tossing things to people who are suffering so much as Puerto Ricans are.
Besides that, the way that they came in with FEMA and Homeland
Security really reflects—really reflects what colonialism is to
Puerto Ricans. We can see—we can see how FEMA can come into Puerto
Rico and dictate to Puerto Ricans, “Hey, this is what you have to
do, this is what you have to do,” and be totally disrespectful. The
same with Homeland Security. Homeland Security comes in, and they’re
bearing arms. It’s almost incredible how they treat people, how they
have been dealing with our situation in Puerto Rico. Rather than
being sensitive and respectful of the people, they have been totally
disrespectful of the people. They’re treating us not like citizens,
but they’re treating us like animals.
And I think—I think that once we see the results, because we have
not seen the results from the medical side of Puerto Rico—once we
see the results, we see that we are being killed—we are being killed
by neglect. So, I think that it reflects the response of Donald
Trump and the U.S. government to the crisis in Puerto Rico.
*NICOLE SALAZAR:* Right now, a majority of the Puerto Rican
population, according to polls, prefers statehood. What do you sort
of see as the political trajectory that Puerto Rico is on and where
you’d like it to go?
*OSCAR LÓPEZ RIVERA:* Well, I believe, as a Puerto Rican, that the
majority of Puerto Ricans want to be Puerto Ricans. Once we become
annexed to the United States or by the United States, that we will
lose our national identity. I can look at Hawaii as an example of
people who lose, the Natives who lose their identity. I can look
into the Native American reservations and see people who lose their
national identity, their culture, their language, their land. And
that’s what’s going to happen to Puerto Ricans here.
I think that there are times—there are times when people think,
“Well, oh, we are blessed with the relationship with the United
States.” But that is not the—the end result will not be that, we can
see. I guarantee you—I can guarantee you this much. If Puerto Rico
becomes similar to Hawaii—well, the Hawaiian Native population is
about 9 percent. And if we go to the prisons, the overwhelming
majority of the prisoners are the Natives. The same thing with
Alaska. So I can anticipate that Puerto Ricans will not be better
off by the annexation of the United States of Puerto Rico. I also
know for a fact that once any nation or any people lose their
identity, their culture, their language, their way of life, their
lifestyles, that they are a little dehumanized. So, you know, this
is the reality that we are facing as Puerto Ricans. I see a big,
big, big problem if Puerto Rico is to be annexed.
But I believe—I believe that the overwhelming majority of Puerto
Rico wants to be Puerto Ricans. I have been in five different states
in the United States, and I have found young Puerto Ricans in the
states who really love Puerto Rico, who really want to do something
for Puerto Rico. And for me, Puerto Rico has to be the promised land
of all Puerto Ricans, whether we are in the United States or
wherever we are at. But this has to be the promised land. Annexation
will never be the answer.
*AMY GOODMAN:* That’s longtime Puerto Rican independent activist Oscar
López Rivera speaking last week in Puerto Rico. Until earlier this year,
he had been in federal prison in the U.S. for 35 years, much of that
time in solitary confinement, after convicted on federal charges of
opposing U.S. authority over the island by force. President Obama
commuted his sentence in January, finally released in May. Special
thanks to reporter Nicole Salazar of Divided Films and Ed Mariota, who
recorded that footage while filming in Puerto Rico for their series,
/America Uprising/, which is airing on Refinery29.
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